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This book offers a highly engaging history of the world's most famous secret society, the Cambridge 'Apostles', based upon the lives, careers and correspondence of the 255 Apostles elected to the Cambridge Conversazione Society between 1820 and 1914. It examines the way in which the Apostles recruited their membership, the Society's discussions and its intellectual preoccupations. From its pages emerge such figures as F. D. Maurice, John Sterling, John Mitchell Kemble, Richard Trench, Fenton Hort, James Clerk Maxwell, Henry Sidgwick, Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster, and John Maynard Keynes. The careers of these and many other leading Apostles are traced, through Parliament, government, letters, and in public school and university reform. The book also makes an important contribution in discussing the role of liberalism, imagination, and friendship at the intersection of the life of learning and public life. This is a major contribution to the intellectual and social history of the nineteenth and early twentieth century, and to the history of the University of Cambridge.
It demonstrates in impressive depth just how and why the Apostles forged original themes in modern intellectual life.